Where there is smoke…

There is usually fire. The smoke this time emanates from a recent safety directive issued by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stressing the fire hazards posed by lithium batteries – used in everything from pace makers to watch batteries, cell phones, portable computers and car batteries. The fire in this case is a FAA […]


There is usually fire. The smoke this time emanates from a recent safety directive issued by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stressing the fire hazards posed by lithium batteries – used in everything from pace makers to watch batteries, cell phones, portable computers and car batteries. The fire in this case is a FAA proposal regarding lithium battery safety that is sitting on US President Barack Obama’s desk – a dossier that most likely contains measures that could have a very significant impact on the air cargo industry, not to mention electronics manufacturers heavily reliant on just-in-time supply chains.

Action on this important safety issue is long overdue. Since the early 1990s, there have been numerous incidents of batteries igniting in flight or during cargo handling and tragically, the recent fatal crash in Dubai of a UPS B747-400 freighter killing both pilots – said to be carrying a substantial cargo of lithium batteries – propelled the issue onto centre stage.

Pilots’ groups have been pushing for action for years, including an outright ban on carrying the batteries, but that seems quite unlikely given the importance of this product. More likely will be a mandate on the number of batteries that can be carried or specifications for storage or new container types.